Social Media Needs TV and TV Needs Social Media

Claire Tavernier is Head of Digital at FremantleMedia, the company behind global TV hits like Idol, Got Talent and X Factor. While Viacom, the parent company of MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, is suing YouTube for more than $1 billion in damages, Claire takes a different view. "We bring the rich narrative layer and social media brings us the audience- 500 million views in the case of Susan Boyle. It is time to move beyond the acrimony…social media needs TV and TV needs social media". 
 Claire Tavernier, Head of Digital, Fremantle Media
The exposure from Susan Boyle served as a customer acquisition tool. "It helped expand the global Got Talent audience. Our approach is to tap into existing behaviors, not create new ones". Claire cites the X Factor Twitter Guy (@TheXFactor). "Just before broadcast, Twitter Guy posts back-stage photos of each contestant. It costs us nothing but rewards fans and increases the likelihood that people will watch the show live. We do different things on different social networks. This was aligned with the way people are already using Twitter.
2010 XFactor UK winner, Matt Cardle, thanking supporters via Twitter
YouTube, with whom FremantleMedia has had a global relationship for over three years, played an important role in the US re-launch of Family Feud. Each day, the Producers upload funny clips and bloopers from the host, comedian Steve Harvey, to a dedicated YouTube channel. The site has garnered more than 25 million views and ratings are up this year by over 30%. "Family Feud is not a show that people would traditionally watch online…the YouTube Channel has brought a whole new audience".
While FremantleMedia and the major film studios understand the promotional value of social media, rental offerings on Facebook are still limited. Warner Bros. was the first-to-market, with "Dark Knight" available for 30 Facebook credits or $3. This was followed by Paramount ("Jackass"), Universal ("The Big Lebowski") and a basket of 20 titles from Miramax called eXperience. Silicon Valley is not waiting for Hollywood to introduce social recommendation. One example is start-up flickme, which rents Warner Bros and Sony Pictures titles on Facebook. "Gamification, social recommendation…we want to tap into existing behaviors. I am less convinced about checking into TV shows".
FremantleMedia has had the same sponsors on American Idol for 10 seasons (
AT&T, Ford, Coca Cola and is increasingly collaborating with brands to tell stories. "Both sides have a steep learning curve". Moving the company faster in this direction was the acquisition last year of, known for its "Iconoclast" series (5th season on Sundance Channel), sponsored by Grey Goose.
Together with MSN and Buick, FremantleMedia has created a web-only travel series called msn Re: Discover. While the website over-emphasizes the brand the story-line is more subtle with brand integrations. "There’s a delicate dance when it comes to storytelling with brands. We are moving faster down that road than ever before, especially in the US".
To see the re:discover Los Angeles episode, click
Other collaborations with brands include a teen drama with Red Bull in the UK and The YouTube series "Sorted", a cooking community for 18-34 year olds with a larger online audience than Jamie Oliver. "We are seeing the importance of curating the channel. It is not yet as commercially viable as the other two web shows".
 To see a clip from Sorted, click here
"Gazing into my crystal ball, the next two years will be about 2 screen navigation. This is about encouraging people to watch live TV, which is very important to the broadcasters. Expect to see much more event television, 2 screen, social-media heavy shows. Drama will be more VOD".
To address the trend of gamificiation. FremantleMedia acquired Canadian interactive gaming company Ludia last year. "Consumers want it and we needed the expertise. We had worked with Ludia very successfully in the last two years across multiple gaming platforms", says Tavernier.
One thing is for certain, social media and traditional television are no longer separate silos. Social media needs TV and TV needs social media.